Clé Dubai | Does it live up to all the hype?
We all heard about Clé Dubai's star-studded launch party a few weeks ago where they "unlocked the secret" to the guestlist of local socialites and international celebrities like Paris and Nikki Hilton, Khloé Kardashian and Akon, to name just a few.
This launch party definitely created a hype in Dubai, so of course my expectations were pretty high when I went there for dinner last week with some friends. When I called to make a reservation I inquired about the vegetarian options on the menu and was told with confidence that the restaurant is definitely vegetarian friendly.
My first impression was that everything about the place is dark - the flooring, the walls, the ceilings, the furniture... which is great for a place that wants to focus on nightlife, but I wonder why they would choose to ignore the huge potential for lunchtime crowd that they have access to with their prime DIFC location. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't pick a dark place like that for lunch. And a place can definitely still draw a nighttime crowd without being that dark.
The words of the Michelin star Chef Greg Malouf expressed on the inset of the menu state that he is not serving "traditional Lebanese dishes, but rather food which... captures the essence of the Middle East and expresses it in the best West tradition." I read this and thought to myself, Lebanese cuisine with with a western twist, sounds yummy!
Unfortunately, I was mistaken. I can't speak for the meat dishes, but overall the vegetarian dishes either lacked flavour or were just average tasting Lebanese dishes, presented a little differently. Nothing creative or out of the ordinary as one would expect from a Michelin star chef.
The Persian soft herb salad with "crunchy" halloumi and figs looked great on the plate, but it lacked dressing and the greens and figs didn't taste very fresh. The deep fried halloumi itself was very plain and not particularly crunchy. The Hazelnut falafel with whipped yogurt & tahini sauce just tasted and looked like ordinary falafel; I couldn't really taste the hazelnut. The fennel, carrot and turkish pepper dish was also quite bland and the saffron seasoning was ok.
The smoky moutabel was good and we loved the feta cheese straws, but again it wasn't that different from regular moutabel. We also ordered the saffron risotto, the only vegetarian main on the menu which was quite good, but not good enough for me to want to go back to the restaurant.
Frankly I was still pretty hungry after the savoury courses and had plenty of room for dessert, so based on the waiters advice went with the "Ataif bi Gebna", Arab yeast pancakes with mango & sweet cheese - decent but nothing to write home about.
By the time I got home I realized I was still hungry, so I a grabbed a snack before bed! I doubt I'll go back for the food anytime soon, but perhaps for drinks.
Veggie Friendly: Mostly sides and mezze, but nothing great.
Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Nice lounge and outdoor area, good for drinks
Cons: Vegetarian food not that great, service needs improvement
Price: $$$ (200 - 500 AED)
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